Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.
Quarterbacks - Start of the week
Peyton Manning vs. New Orleans Saints: Manning has been an absolute star in fantasy land, scoring 20-plus points in all but one game this season (neck surgeries, what neck surgeries?). Next on the schedule is a matchup against the Saints, who have allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks than any other team in the league. Look for a shootout in this contest.
Andrew Luck at Tennessee Titans: It's true, Luck has not been as good on the road as he's been at home as a rookie. However, this matchup is too good to pass up. The Titans have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and every single-caller that's faced them has scored better than 15 points no matter where the games have been played. Start Luck this week.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Washington Redskins: Roethlisberger hasn't been the most consistent fantasy quarterback this season, but he does rank in the top 10 in points at his position. He should improve that level of status against the Redskins, who have surrendered 15 touchdown passes and an average of just fewer than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing field generals.
Philip Rivers at Cleveland Browns: I admit, it will take a leap of faith to start Rivers this week and you shouldn't do it unless you're other options at quarterback are limited. Still, the veteran does have a good matchup against a Browns defense that has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to signal-callers. Proceed with caution, but the matchup is a favorable one.
Sleeper alert - Brandon Weeden vs. San Diego Chargers: Weeden has become a legitimate fantasy option, scoring 15-plus fantasy points in each of his last three contests. Is he a sure bet to continue to produce at a high level? No, but he has been rolling lately and a matchup against the Chargers is a favorable one. Get him in your lineup if you need a one-week quarterback.
Quarterbacks - Sit of the week
Michael Vick vs. Atlanta Falcons: It's tough to sit Vick, and you shouldn't do it unless you have a viable alternative. Just keep in mind that he's been inconsistent at best in 2012, and this weekend's matchup against the Falcons isn't attractive. Atlanta's defense has allowed an average of fewer than 14 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season.
Matthew Stafford vs. Seattle Seahawks: Where have you gone, Stafford? A fantasy superstar in 2011, the veteran hasn't had a repeat performance in 2012. While he's still tough to bench because you likely took him in Round 1 or 2, keep in mind that this week's matchup against the Seahawks is a tough one. Their defense has given up the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Alex Smith at Arizona Cardinals (Mon.): Just when you think you can trust in your fantasy lineup, he goes out and puts up a stinker. He's had several of those performances in recent weeks, in fact, and Monday night's matchup against the Cardinals isn't favorable. Arizona's defense has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, so keep Smith on the bench.
Ryan Tannehill at New York Jets: Tannehill has recorded 17-plus fantasy points in two of his last three games, but that's not enough to start him against a team like the Jets. The Men in Green have been tough on quarterbacks this season, allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position in 2012. I also don't like the fact that this game is on the road, either.
Owners beware - Cam Newton at Chicago Bears: You should not bench (repeat, NOT bench) Newton if you are without a viable alternative. Just keep in mind that this week's matchup against the Bears at Solider Field is a terrible one. Chicago's defense has allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and has held down some of the league's best, including Aaron Rodgers.
Running backs - Start of the week
Chris Johnson vs. Indianapolis Colts: Welcome back to fantasy relevance, Johnson! He exploded for 31.80 points last week against the Buffalo Bills, and this week's matchup against the Colts is also favorable. Their defense has allowed eight touchdown runs and the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. That makes CJ2K a virtual must-start in most fantasy leagues.
Ryan Mathews at Cleveland Browns: Mathews is back where he belongs - atop the Chargers depth chart and in a featured role for coach Norv Turner. That makes him a solid option against the Browns, who have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards and an average of 18.84 fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Expect an electric performance from this lightning bolt.
Reggie Bush vs. New York Jets: The Jets might be tough against the pass, but their run defense does leave a lot to be desired. In fact, this team has given up the third-most rushing yards and the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. That makes Bush, who should be close to 100 percent after Miami's bye week, a solid No. 2 fantasy option in most leagues.
Willis McGahee vs. New Orleans Saints: McGahee has had an up-and-down season based on fantasy points, but he's still the featured back in Denver and a viable starting option. He's even more attractive when the matchup is favorable, and that's the case this week against the Saints. New Orleans has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2012.
Sleeper alert - Rashad Jennings at Green Bay Packers: Jennings is set to take on a featured role in the absence of Maurice Jones-Drew, making him a hot waiver-wire pickup. If you landed him and need a No. 2 runner or flex starter, Jennings worth a look against the Packers. Their defense has allowed an average of 21.85 fantasy points to backs in the last two weeks.
Running backs - Sit of the week
Steven Jackson vs. New England Patriots (London): Jackson has averaged better than 10 fantasy points per game in his last two starts, so it's tough to bench him during the bye weeks. Just keep in mind that he continues to lose some looks to Daryl Richardson. Also, the Patriots have allowed just two touchdowns and the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Mikel Leshoure vs. Seattle Seahawks: Leshoure hasn't posted a solid stat line since putting up 19.40 fantasy points against the Tennessee Titans back in Week 3, and his statistical fortunes aren't likely to be altered against the Seahawks. Their defense has allowed just two touchdowns and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs after seven weeks.
LaRod Stephens-Howling vs. San Francisco 49ers (Mon.): Stephens-Howling was a beast last week, posting more fantasy points than all but four running backs. Still, it's tough to trust him based on one good stat line when his next opponent is the Niners. Their defense has struggled of late, but this unit has still given up the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs.
DeAngelo Williams at Chicago Bears: I'm not sure there's a single member of the Panthers that fantasy owners can start with confidence. That includes Williams, who isn't even the top 40 at his position in points. Couple that with a matchup against the Bears, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to runners, and sitting Williams and Jonathan Stewart is advised.
Owners beware - Shonn Greene vs. Miami Dolphins: Greene has been a nice option over the last two weeks, so it's tough to bench him in most cases. If you have enough backfield depth, though, keep in mind that the Dolphins have allowed just two rushing touchdowns, the third-fewest rushing yards and the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2012.
Wide receivers - Start of the week
Mike Wallace vs. Washington Redskins: Wallace had a case of the dropsies last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals, but there's no benching a wideout of his caliber when the matchup is this favorable. No team has allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Redskins, making Wallace and Antonio Brown both solid options. Look for a shootout at Heinz Field this week.
Reggie Wayne at Tennessee Titans: Wayne's numbers have dipped a bit over the last two weeks, as he's averaged just seven fantasy points in standard leagues during that time. Still, he remains a very solid option (especially in PPR leagues) against the Titans. Their defense has allowed an average of close to 23 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers in 2012.
Eric Decker vs. New Orleans Saints: Calling all fantasy owners, if you have any Broncos they need to be in your starting lineup this week. That includes Demaryius Thomas and Decker, who should both put up solid totals against the Saints. Their defense has allowed 10 touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, so look for a real shootout in Denver.
Miles Austin vs. New York Giants: Austin hasn't been consistent this season, but it's tough not to like him against the Giants. Their defense has allowed 10 touchdowns and the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Another reason to like Austin - he has found the end zone in three of his last four games against New York. Start Austin and Dez Bryant in Week 8.
Sleeper alert - Kenny Britt vs. Indianapolis Colts: Britt was a disappointment last week, scoring just three points against the Buffalo Bills. Regardless, I'd still start him as a No. 3 wideout or flex player with a matchup against the Colts on deck. Indianapolis has allowed 11 touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, so the numbers are on Britt's side.
Wide receivers - Sit of the week
Steve Smith at Chicago Bears: Andrew Hawkins. Jeremy Kerley. Mike Williams. Those are just some of the wide receivers with more fantasy points than Smith this season. The veteran hasn't scored double digits since Week 3, and playing the Bears isn't going to help reverse that trend. Just ask Calvin Johnson, who was shut down by Charles "Peanut" Tillman this past Monday night.
Brandon Lloyd at St. Louis Rams (London): Speaking of disappointing receivers, Lloyd has yet to get his groove on with the Patriots. In fact, he has just 0.60 more fantasy points than Smith! He has a very tough matchup across the pond this week against the Rams, who boast one of the better cornerback duos in the league. If you have wideout depth, sitting Lloyd makes sense.
Michael Crabtree at Arizona Cardinals (Mon.): Crabtree is turning in a bust for both the Niners and fantasy fans alike. Outside of his 113-yard, one-touchdown performance back in Week 5, he's failed to put up double digits in fantasy production all season. The Cardinals have been tough on wide receivers, so Crabtree isn't likely to break out on Monday Night Football.
Brian Hartline at New York Jets: Hartline was a hot name on the waiver wire after posting 253 yards and one touchdown back in Week 4, but he's been inconsistent overall. In fact, he's being dropped in a lot of leagues. If you still have Hartline, keep him on your bench against CB Antonio Cromartie and a Jets defense that has been one of the toughest for wide receivers in 2012.
Owners beware - DeSean Jackson vs. Atlanta Falcons: Countless fantasy owners don't have the depth to bench Jackson, but this week's matchup against the Falcons is a difficult one. These birds have allowed just four touchdowns and the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. If you do start Jackson, don't look for him to post a huge stat line in this NFC battle.
Tight ends - Start of the week
Heath Miller vs. Washington Redskins: Miller has been one of the better waiver-wire pickups of the season. While his yardage total is modest, Miller has done damage in the red zone with five touchdowns. He's a virtual must-start against the Redskins, who have allowed the second-most receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns and fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.
Tony Gonzalez at Philadelphia Eagles: There are not a lot of good matchups for tight ends this week, so you need to stick with your top options and hope for the best. That's the case with Gonzalez, who ranks second in points at the position but doesn't have the best matchup against the Eagles. Regardless, you need to keep the veteran in your starting lineup this week.
Jason Witten vs. New York Giants: Here's another example of a solid tight end with a bad matchup who still needs to be in your starting lineup because of this week's circumstances. Witten started the season off slow, but he's third in fantasy points at the position over the last four weeks - and that's with Witten on a bye in Week 5. Keep him active against the Giants.
Greg Olsen at Chicago Bears: Olsen has not been productive in his last two games, scoring a combined 6.80 fantasy points. However, with few good matchups at the tight end spot, Olsen is still worth a look against the Bears. Their defense has allowed an average of close to eight fantasy points per game to tight ends, and Olsen will want to stick it to his former team.
Sleeper alert - Martellus Bennett at Dallas Cowboys: Here's another "revenge" matchup, as Bennett goes up against his former team, the Cowboys. Bennett had success against the Boys from Big D back in Week 1, posting 40 yards, one touchdown and 10 fantasy points. He's also coming off a nice game against the Washington Redskins, putting up a respectable 7.90 fantasy points.
Tight ends - Sit of the week
Jermichael Finley vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dennis Pitta. Joel Dreessen. Anthony Fasano. Those are just a few of the tight ends who have more fantasy points than Finley. He's been a complete statistical disaster since Week 1, so much so that he's being dropped in a lot of leagues. Keep him benched against the Rams, who have been tough on tight ends this season.
Brandon Pettigrew vs. Seattle Seahawks: Pettigrew has been a real disappointment this season, posting fewer than eight fantasy points in all five of his games. What's more, he's averaging just 3.75 points in his last two games in standard leagues. His fortunes aren't likely to improve against the Seahawks, who field one of the more talented defenses in the entire league.
Jared Cook vs. Indianapolis Colts: Cook might be in the top 10 in fantasy points among tight ends, but he hasn't been consistent. In fact, he's scored fewer than six points in three of his last four games. This week Cook faces the Colts, who have allowed just one touchdown and the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. If you're able, keep Cook on the sidelines.
Chris Cooley at Pittsburgh Steelers: With Fred Davis out for the season, fantasy leaguers might go after Cooley on the waiver wire hoping for some of his old magic. Unfortunately, the veteran hasn't been much of a fantasy option in the past year-plus. He's also certain to share snaps with Logan Paulsen this week, so don't expect to catch lightning in a bottle here.
Owners beware - Aaron Hernandez at St. Louis Rams (London): In a stunning bit of late-week news, NFL Network's Albert Breer reported that Hernandez was unable to make the trip to London due to his ankle ailment. So while he had returned to the field the past two weeks, Hernandez now needs to be out of your fantasy lineups when the Patriots face the Rams.
Kickers - Start of the week
Robbie Gould vs. Carolina Panthers: Gould has been on fire in recent weeks, scoring double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games. That trend of solid production should continue against the Panthers, who have given up the most fantasy points (12.33 FPPG) to opposing kickers. Gould is still a free agent in over 65 percent of NFL.com leagues as well.
Matt Bryant at Philadelphia Eagles: The seventh-rated kicker in the league based on fantasy points, Bryant has become a solid option behind Atlanta's explosive offense. He's a great option against the Eagles, who have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points (10.50 FPPG) to opposing kickers. Bryant remains available in more than 30 percent of NFL.com leagues right now.
Mason Crosby vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: After an atrocious start, Crosby put up 12 fantasy points in last week's win over the St. Louis Rams. That was his first double-digit performance since Week 2. He has a great matchup coming next, facing a Jaguars defense that has allowed an average of 10.67 fantasy points per game to kickers. That's the fourth-most in the NFL.
Sleeper alert - Adam Vinatieri at Tennessee Titans: Vinatieri might not be one of the elite kickers in fantasy football at this stage of his career, but you can still use him when the matchup is favorable. That is the case this week, as he faces a Titans defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing kickers. He's also a free agent in most leagues.
Kickers - Sit of the week
Phil Dawson vs. San Diego Chargers: Dawson is ranked a very respectable 10th in fantasy points among kickers, but he hasn't been consistent in the least. In fact, he scored just one point in last week's loss to the Indianapolis Colts. I'd keep him on the pine against the Chargers, who have given up the fewest fantasy points (4.83 FPPG) to opposing kickers this season.
Alex Henery vs. Atlanta Falcons: Henery has the leg to become a terrific option in fantasy land, but he's failed to meet expectations to this point. In fact, he's barely in the top 25 in fantasy points at the position right now. The Falcons have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers this season, so it's pretty tough to expect Henery to make an impact.
Kai Forbath at Pittsburgh Steelers: Owners might be tempted to target Forbath off the waiver wire this week. After all, he has scored double-digit fantasy points in each of his first two games since taking over for Billy Cundiff. Just keep in mind that in Week 8 he'll face a Steelers defense that has allowed an average of fewer than seven fantasy points per game to kickers.
Owners beware - Rob Bironas vs. Indianapolis Colts: Bironas, who ranks a modest 20th in fantasy points among kickers, has been too inconsistent to use in most leagues. In fact, he's scored double digits just twice this season. This week he faces the Colts, who have allowed an average of fewer than seven fantasy points per game to kickers. That's bad news for Bironas.
Defenses - Start of the week
Packers defense vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Packers have been mediocre in fantasy land, and the loss of DB Charles Woodson won't help this unit. However, facing a Jaguars offense that will be playing a backup at quarterback and running back bodes well. Defenses going up against this lackluster offense have also averaged the seventh-most fantasy points after seven weeks.
Seahawks defense at Detroit Lions: These aren't the same explosive Lions from one season ago, so it's not as taboo to play the opposing defense. This week it's the Seahawks, who rank in the top seven in fantasy points at the position. Defenses facing the Lions have also combined to score the second-most points, so there's no reason not to like the Hawks this weekend.
Falcons defense at Philadelphia Eagles: The Falcons defense has been a nice surprise, ranking fifth in points at the position. Their success should continue against Michael Vick and the turnover-prone Eagles. Opposing defenses facing this offense have combined to average the third-most fantasy points. Atlanta is still available in 49.9 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Sleeper alert - Giants defense at Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have major offensive line issues and some real question marks in their backfield due to injuries, so this is a really good week to start the opportunistic Giants defense. What's more, opposing defenses facing Tony Romo and the Pokes have combined to score the fourth-most fantasy points in 2012.
Defenses - Sit of the week
Rams defense vs. New England Patriots (London): Coach Jeff Fisher has the Rams playing hard on defense, but this unit is still a matchup-based option. When you consider this week's game across the pond against Tom Brady and the Patriots, well, that is anything but a good matchup. Defenses facing the P-Men have combined to score the second-fewest fantasy points.
Eagles defense vs. Atlanta Falcons: For all of the talent the Eagles have on their roster, this defense has been almost non-existent from a fantasy perspective. In fact, this unit ranks 27th in points! I would keep them on the bench against the Falcons, who have one of the league's most feared offensive attacks and should be set to explode coming off a bye week.
Broncos defense vs. New Orleans Saints: You might not know it, but the Broncos are eighth in fantasy points among defenses after seven weeks. However, I still wouldn't start them against Drew Brees and the Saints. Opposing defenses going up against this explosive offense have combined to average the fifth-fewest fantasy points, and a shootout is a virtual guarantee.
Owners beware - Steelers defense vs. Washington Redskins: The Steelers defense hasn't been a good fantasy option in 2012, ranking a mere 24th in points at the position. Couple that with a matchup against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, and sitting this defense is the move to make. Defenses facing the Skins have combined to score the eighth-fewest fantasy points.